2007jan26_petition-decision.htmlTEXTR*ch so<嵍 Perry petition contests decision by selectmen on LNG meeting -- The Quoddy Tides, Eastport, Maine

The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine


2007 January 26

Perry petition contests decision by selectmen on LNG meeting

by Eileen Curry

Two days following the January 22 selectmen's meeting, a group of Perry residents filed a petition that would override a decision made by the majority of selectmen and allows the citizens to call a special town meeting to decide on setting up a representative group to participate in discussions with Quoddy Bay LNG on a possible agreement with the town.

The new petition calls for an open town meeting to be held on Thursday, February 1, at the Perry Elementary School. According to Selectwoman Jeanne Guisinger and a press release sent to the media, signatures were gathered and presented to a notary public, Mona Love, who verified them using the current voters' list. A total of 66 Perry citizens signed the petition. The statement said that only 41 signatures were required to make the petition legal.

Warrants were posted at several locations around the town of Perry to notify citizens that the special town meeting would be taking place. Selectwoman Jeanne Guisinger, when reached by telephone, confirmed the announcement and referenced a Maine Municipal election manual, Chapter 5, page 89, about the concept of "reasonable refusal." Section 2521 (4) provides that if the municipal officers unreasonably refuse to act on a petition calling for a town meeting, a notary public may call the meeting on the written petition of a number of voters equal to at least 10 percent of the numbers cast in the town in the last gubernatorial election.

The citizen group based its protest on a motion made by Chairman Selectman David Turner at the November 27 selectmen's meeting authorizing Erik Stumpfel of the Eaton Peabody law firm and Turner to begin discussions with Quoddy Bay LNG on structuring an agreement to present to the town during the annual town meeting. The motion passed 2-1, with Turner and Selectman Dick Adams in favor and Guisinger against. A petition was then circulated to consider establishing a negotiating committee made up of other Perry officials and citizens "for a broader representation" during the negotiations. This petition request for a special town meeting to discuss the establishment of a negotiating committee was turned down by a 2-1 vote of the selectmen, with Turner and Adams opposed and Guisinger in favor.

Guisinger said, "This petition and posting for a special town meeting are perfectly legitimate. I am not sure if David [Turner] will challenge this process. But we are going to move ahead with it." Guisinger also said she had sought "legal advice on this matter."

The petition seeks to resolve the following article: "To see if the town will require the selectmen to conduct all future discussions and correspondence by them regarding issues of the potential citing of any liquefied natural gas facilities in Perry, including discussions and correspondence with the town's attorneys and with representatives from Quoddy Bay LNG, only after notice to and participation with full voting rights by a special negotiating committee to be made up of the following members of the Perry community: the board of selectmen; two members of the planning board (to be selected by the planning board); one member of the school committee (to be selected by the school committee); the Perry fire chief; one fisherman to be selected by Cobscook Bay Fishermen's Association; and three members of the Perry community at large (one to be picked by each selectman). The purpose of this article is to assure community involvement in determining the town's goals with respect to possible LNG development."

Selectman Turner, in an interview, responded to the special town meeting initiative and the posting of it in town as "illegal and void."

Turner went on to say, "The facts are this: the majority of the board of selectmen accepted the petition and promptly scheduled an opportunity for the voters to vote. This vote will be preceded by a public hearing, so voters can be informed on the ballot question. The voters will provide significantly larger voter participation than a one-hour meeting full of intimidation and untruths."

He added, "Let me be clear. Jeanne Guisinger has access to all the information I have. She knows the full details of the financial framework agreement being presented to Quoddy Bay. I think she is afraid that when Perry residents hear the deal, they will support it. She is doing everything within her power to stop this. I have been advised by the Maine Municipal Association that the actions of the majority of the board of selectmen were legal. Furthermore, I have been advised that the latest actions of a group of citizens led by Selectwoman Guisinger are illegal because state statute only allows for this action if the selectmen had refused the petition. There was no refusal. Instead, the selectmen took official action to take this to a vote because we believe it would be anti-democratic to avoid voter turnout."

Turner also said, "Due to the rules surrounding executive session discussions, I am not at liberty to share with you what I know. But I assure you the package supported by the majority of the selectmen will be of interest to the voters of Perry."

Guisinger, though, says it is just Turner's opinion that the meeting would be illegal, and MMA told her that Turner will have to challenge the result of the special town meeting in court for a determination of its legality.

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© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.